Global Diversity Overseas Seminar in Ghana 2014

Outside of your comfort zone

Eight Washington University in St. Louis staff travel abroad through the GDOS program to learn about daily life in Ghana and learn about themselves in the process.

“When you are sitting in your own house, you don’t learn anything. You must get out of your house to learn.” Ghanaian Proverb

Now in its third year, the Global Diversity Overseas Seminar (GDOS) is a nine-month program designed to introduce Washington University staff members to multiculturalism, diversity and social justice work in a global context. It encourages staff members to open their minds and take a few steps outside of their comfort zones.

For 2014, the GDOS program focused on social justice, diversity and development issues facing Ghana today, including history and culture; environmental issues; the role of religion and belief; social entrepreneurship; and Ghana’s role in Africa.

Eight people from across the university had the opportunity to spend several months reading about life in Ghana before traveling to Ghana in June.

  • Jennifer Gartley, manager of public outreach and applied music programs for the Department of Music in Arts & Sciences
  • Harvey Fields, assistant director for academic programs at Cornerstone and PI/director of the TRiO Student Support Services grant
  • Robin Hattori, assistant director of the Gephardt Institute for Public Service
  • Anu Hittle, instructor in University College and Career Consultant, Career Center
  • Thomas Malkowicz, video producer and editor, Office of Public Affairs
  • Ashley Viager, residential college director in Residential Life
  • Mary Zabriskie, assistant director of Campus Life
  • Shanon Langlie, global projects manager for the Office of the Provost

To prepare, the GDOS Ghana participants spent four months reading about current events and social justice issues in Ghana, as well as met with faculty who have lived and worked in Africa and talked with Ghanaian students about their lives in Ghana and about adjusting to life in St. Louis. In early June 2014, the eight participants traveled to the WUSTL Overseas Programs location in Accra, Ghana and conducted an international site visit to the University of Ghana, a McDonnell Academy partner institution.

Once in Accra, Cape Coast, and Elmina, the GDOS group hit the ground running to experience as much food, culture, music, history and education that Ghana had to offer. Conversations focused on issues relating to diversity, social justice and development (such as the legacy of slavery, the impact of harvesting natural resources, gender roles, religion & daily life, access to clean water/sewage, access to electricity, LGBT issues in Ghana, and socioeconomic disparities). Participants met with several organizations on the ground including the University of Ghana in Legon, our undergraduate study abroad partner CIEE, and local NGOs working on issues related to the theme.

Upon return and throughout the Fall 2014 semester, the GDOS group will be hosting several educational outreach efforts on campus including presentations, brown bag discussion lunches and a photo exhibit. Our goal is to contribute to the broader conversation on campus about multiculturalism and inclusion, as well as nurture a globally educated staff and faculty who can share new knowledge and attitudes about difference and advantage/disadvantage with their colleagues, students and communities.

This staff development opportunity is a nine-month commitment, with predeparture preparation February through May for a weeklong experience abroad in June and campus outreach efforts July through October. Funded in a joint effort by the Office of the Provost, Overseas Programs, Human Resources and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for International Affairs, the Global Diversity Overseas Seminar (GDOS) program brings domestic and global diversity conversations together by organizing a unique experience for WUSTL staff.